Multnomah Falls Hike Photos - From Multnomah Falls to Wahkeena Falls

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

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Multnomah Falls from Multnomah Falls Lodge

Multnomah Falls from Lodge - Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Multnomah Falls from Lodge - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

All visitors to the Columbia River Gorge stop to view Multnomah Falls. The walk to the top of the falls is a breathtaking hike in more than one way, with 11 switchbacks in a mile and an altitude gain of 760 feet. At the top of the falls, the pavement ends and it turns into a real hike requiring boots or trail shoes to protect against the sharp basalt rock, and trekking poles can help maintain stability on the steep ascents and descents on rocky and rooted trails. But the reward for the hike are 11 named waterfalls and a fantastic experience. The loop from Multnomah Falls to Wahkeena Falls is approximately 6 miles, 1450 feet of elevation gain (and loss). Plan for three to four hours for this hike, and make sure your camera has lots of space for photos.

This is the view of Multnomah Falls that visitors get from I-84 or the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Multnomah Falls is an iconic site for the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon, with a 620 foot drop off the sheer basalt cliff. It is the second-highest year-round waterfall in the US. Many visitors pause at Exit 31 of I-84 and take the very short walk to the Lodge to see the falls. Others take the Historic Columbia River Highway to park at the Lodge. The more adventurous choose to hike to the the top of the falls on a paved trail. But the fullest experience comes in the strenuous hike that continues up, over, and down, taking in 11 named waterfalls and descending past Wahkeena Falls before returning to Multnomah Falls parking areas. This hike can also be started from the Wahkeena Falls parking and picnic area and done in reverse.

Parking is scarce at either Falls by noon on weekends. Beat the crowds and plan to start by 8 a.m. or you will end up in an "ant line" of tourists going up Multnomah Falls, most in inappropriate footwear. If you are only wearing flip flops or cute sandals, I suggest ending your walk at the first bridge.

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Multnomah Falls and Benson Bridge

Multnomah Falls - Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Multnomah Falls - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Multnomah Falls plunges 620 feet in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.

From the base of Multnomah Falls, we see the Benson Bridge, built in 1914 by Simon Benson. This is the site of many a wedding photo, including a group that was inundated and slightly injured when a rock the size of a school bus sheared off the face of the falls in 1995.

Multnomah Falls can be reached at Exit 31 of I-84, 31 miles west of Portland, Oregon, or the Historic Columbia River Highway.

The paved walk to the top of the falls is 1.2 miles, gaining 760 feet of elevation, and can be done in athletic shoes. Flip flops are a bad idea due to the steep ascent and descent, even though the route is paved to the top of the falls. Past the top of the falls, hiking boots or trail shoes are required due to the sharp rock trailbed, roots and steep trail.

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Multnomah Falls Lodge

Multnomah Falls Lodge - Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Multnomah Falls Lodge - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

The Multnomah Falls Lodge in the Columbia River Gorge has a restaurant, snack bar and USDA Forest Service Information Center.

Multnomah Falls Lodge is located at Exit 31 of I-84 or along the Historic Columbia River Highway in the Columbia Gorge, Oregon. It was built in 1925 using every type of rock found in the Columbia River Gorge, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Multnomah Falls Lodge

It is a lovely place to have breakfast, lunch or dinner, opening at 8 am on weekends and 10 am on weekdays. Hikers and visitors appreciate the snack bar, gift shop, public restrooms and the Information Center. The public areas are open daily 8 am - 9 pm.

Parking fills up on the weekends by noon (and at times the highway department closes the freeway exit due to the overflow condition), so plan to arrive early if you want to use this as the base for a hike, or plan to use other trailheads.

The restroom and water fountain at the Lodge will be the last restroom/water source you will see on any of the hikes until you return or come down to a trailhead such as Wahkeena Falls, which has a restroom and water fountain in the picnic area. Plan to pack your own water and be prepared to use nature's facilities. It is unwise to drink untreated water from streams due to parasites and other possible natural contamination. Fill up at water fountains instead.

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Larch Mountain Trail Sign at Base of Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls Trail Sign - Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Multnomah Falls Trail Sign - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

From the base of Multnomah Falls, walkers can walk up to the Benson Bridge, on to the top of the falls, or hike on rough trail further up.

Multnomah Falls Lodge Trailhead is the jumping off point for several walks, hikes and loops.

The shortest walk is the 0.2 mile walk up the paved trail to the Benson Bridge for a vista of the lodge area and an up-close view of the main drop of the falls. This can be done in athletic shoes, while I have seen women in heels and people with flip flops doing it, I would not recommend that.

The walk to the top of Multnomah Falls is variously listed at 1 mile, 1.1 mile and 1.2 miles. It is all paved but has 11 switchbacks and is a strenuous walk gaining 760 feet in elevation (and losing it on the way back down.) With the steep climb, athletic shoes are definitely needed.

To continue on past the top of the falls, the trail turns from paved to rough, sharp basalt rock, narrow trail, and continued steep ups and downs. This becomes a real hike and requires hiking boots or trail shoes, and trekking poles are recommended for stability. We will show a loop hike that uses the Wahkeena Falls trail and returns downhill past Wahkeena Falls for a 6 mile loop hike.

The trail up to Larch Mountain is often done as a shuttle hike going only one way, or a dawn-to-dusk loop of 14.4 miles. It is extremely strenuous and many use it as a training hike in preparation for climbing Mount Hood, due to its 4000 feet of elevation gain.

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Multnomah Falls from the Benson Bridge

Multnomah Falls from Bridge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Multnomah Falls from Benson Bridge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Multnomah Falls as seen from the Benson Bridge, a 0.2 mile walk up from Multnomah Falls Lodge.

The 0.2 mile walk up to the Benson Bridge on a paved trail is a lovely jaunt for those wanting to get a little closer to the 542 main drop of Multnomah Falls. The lower falls is a 63 foot drop. If you are regretting your footwear at this point, it is best to abandon the further steep one-mile climb to the top of the falls. Athletic shoes or trail shoes are needed for proper support on the steep trail. Past here, take the advice of one teenage hiker I encountered coming down from the top, "Flip flops bad idea! Flip flops bad idea!"

You will often encounter wedding parties taking photos on the bridge.

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View of Multnomah Falls Lodge Area from Benson Bridge

View Down From Multnomah Falls Bridge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon View Down From Multnomah Falls Bridge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Walking up the 0.2 mile trail from Multnomah Falls Lodge to the Benson Bridge, you get this vista from the Benson Bridge.

Looking down from the Benson Bridge you see the viewing area at Multnomah Falls Lodge. There is a buried treasure in pennies people have tossed from the bridge into the pools below. What goes up must come down, so if the walk up here has you winded and regretting wearing your dress shoes, then it is best to call it good and not continue up the further mile to the top of the falls.

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Giant Fallen Rock at Base of Multnomah Falls

Fallen Rock at Base of Multnomah Falls
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Fallen Rock at Base of Multnomah Falls. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

The Columbia River Gorge is always changing and can be dangerous. This rock fell from the face of the falls in 1995 and injured several people.

September 6, 1995 a 400 ton rock broke loose from the face of Multnomah Falls and plunged into the pool at the base, creating a wave of water and small rocks that inundated a wedding party taking photos on the Benson Bridge. Of the 20 people, 16 were taken to the hospital with minor injuries such as a broken arm from the rock shrapnel. This rock is the size of a school bus and a reminder to all that the Gorge is geographically young and in constant transition. Rock falls, trail washouts, trails collapsing in small landslides are a constant occurrence.

Due to this rockfall, access to the pool below the main drop of the falls is now prohibited. It is a good idea never to leave the developed trails in the Gorge. Severe injuries and loss of life are common news reports from the Gorge. Also, I spied a lot of growth of poison oak along the trail to the top of Multnomah Falls. Don't let the paved trail fool you as to it being a completely safe walk.

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Multnomah Falls From the Third Switchback

Multnomah Falls from the Third Switchback
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Multnomah Falls from the Third Switchback. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Continuing up the Multnomah Falls Trail from the Benson Bridge, you get this vista of Multnomah Falls from the third of 11 switchbacks.

The paved trail from Multnomah Falls Lodge to the top of the falls is 1.2 miles of steep uphill, and then what goes up must come down. If you are out of breath or regretting your footwear at this point, it is best to retreat to the car and return when you are in better condition and have the right shoes.

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Trail to Top of Multnomah Falls

Trail to Top of Multnomah Falls
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Trail to Top of Multnomah Falls. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Past the Benson Bridge, the paved trail continues up a further mile with 11 switchbacks.

Past the Benson Bridge, you have a further mile of 11 switchbacks up the Larch Mountain Trail to the top of Multnomah Falls. Many have regretted pushing a baby stroller up further than the Benson Bridge, or wearing flip flops or dress sandals. While the trail is paved, it is a steep uphill and then a steep downhill. Along the way you have a couple of vistas of the Gorge, and lots of sheer basalt cliffs and wildflowers. I also spied a lot of poison oak along the trail. This trail is very crowded after 10 am on weekends.

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Poison Oak Along Multnomah Falls Trail

Poison Oak - Multnomah Falls - Oregon
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Poison Oak - Multnomah Falls - Oregon. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Poison oak grows alongside the trail up Multnomah Falls. It produces an itchy, oozing rash in three days for those who touch it and are sensitive.

Poison oak grows throughout areas of the Columbia River Gorge. It can be recognized for its leaves-of-three pattern, but grows as a bush, a vine, individual plants, etc. It is a great mimic and the leaves can be differently shaped, depending on what it is growing next to. I saw many patches of poison oak growing alongside the paved trail up Multnomah Falls. Keep children and dogs out of the foliage alongside the trail, or in three days you may have deep regrets.
Is it Poison Oak or Not? How to Identify Poison Oak

Poison oak, like poison ivy and poison sumac, has a toxic oil which can remain on clothing, shoes, etc. and give you new outbreaks next time you wear the item. Clean any exposed skin with alcohol or special poison oak removing scrub within minutes of exposure. Those who are sensitive may also want to put on a poison oak barrier lotion before hiking in the Gorge, and then launder their clothing several times upon return.
Poison Oak and Ivy Prevention Products

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Switchbacks on Multnomah Falls Trail

Switchbacks on Multnomah Falls Trail
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Switchbacks on Multnomah Falls Trail. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

There are 11 switchbacks on the 1.2 mile walk up to the top of Multnomah Falls.

Climb, climb, climb. The paved route to the top of Multnomah Falls tests your aerobic condition with the altitude gain of 720 feet and steep climb. It tests your footwear. One of the teens in the photo passed me calling out, "Flip flops bad idea! Flip flops bad idea!" Yes, on a steep downhill you need footwear that will stay on your foot without trying to carve a new channel down the middle of your foot. Even when wearing athletic shoes or boots, you will want to stop and retie your laces before going downhill. Otherwise, your foot may slide forward in your shoe, banging your toes against the end of the toebox, and you may get a black toenail. If your foot still seems to slide forward, learn to lace your shoes to keep the heel in the heel cup.

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Top of Multnomah Falls

Top of Multnomah Falls - Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Top of Multnomah Falls - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

The main drop of Multnomah Falls plunges over the edge of the cliff in the Columbia River Gorge.

At last you reach your goal, the viewing area at the top of the main drop of Multnomah Falls. Here the creek, which is fed by a springs from Larch Mountain, tumbles over the edge of the basalt cliff and drops 542 feet into the pool below. You get a great view out north, across the Columbia River to the Washington side.

There are railings here to help keep you safe.

Now you have a choice to return downhill, or to continue and make a loop hike to the passing more waterfalls as you climb further up, then over and down via the Wahkeena Falls Trail for a six mile hike, or the Oneonta Gorge for a 14.4 mile hike. With either choice, you will now leave the paved trail and be on narrow trails with sharp basalt rock. Hiking boots or trail shoes are required, and trekking poles are a very good idea. There is no water or restrooms along either trail until the end.

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View of the Columbia River Gorge from Larch Mountain Trail Up Multnomah Falls

View from Top of Multnomah Falls Oregon
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon View from Top of Multnomah Falls Oregon. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

The Larch Mountain Trail up Multnomah Falls has a few viewpoints of the Columbia River Gorge.

The 1.2 mile hike to the top of Multnomah Falls has a few points where you can see out over the Columbia River to the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. The excuse to pause to take a photo is one you will welcome during the strenuous hike.

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Upper Multnomah Falls

Upper Multnomah Falls - Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Upper Multnomah Falls - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Just above the main drop of Multnomah Falls is the smaller drop of Upper Multnomah Falls.

After returning from the viewing platform at the top of the main drop of Multnomah Falls, you will see the small drop of Upper Multnomah Falls. From here, Trail 441 continues unpaved. The surface is pointy basalt rock, as we are walking on the old lava flows themselves without any cushioning topsoil (that was washed away in the creation of the Gorge by the Bretz/Lake Missoula Floods at the end of the last Ice Age.)

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Trail Sign at Top of Multnomah Falls

Trail Sign at Top of Multnomah Falls
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Trail Sign at Top of Multnomah Falls. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

At the top of Multnomah Falls, you can choose to go further up or to return back down one mile to the Lodge.

From the top of Multnomah Falls, walkers may decide to return back down a mile on the paved trail to the Multnomah Falls Lodge, the same way they came. Or, they may decide to continue on up for 0.7 miles past several more waterfalls on Trail #441. They can make a loop hike by later turning onto the Wahkeena Trail #420 for a hike of a total of six miles. As the trail is narrow, rocky and steep from here onward, it requires boots or trail shoes, and trekking poles are recommended.

In previous decades, I enjoyed the loop hike on the Perdition Trail, which descended back to the Historic Columbia River Highway via wooden stairs. But the stairs burned up in a forest fire in 1991. The Forest Service rebuilt them as concrete steps, only to have them swept away by rockslides in 1996. As of 2010, the trail is closed and the area of the steps is unsafe. This is a reminder that change is the only constant in the Gorge. This area formed by volcanoes, carved by giant floods, rocked by earthquakes and gutted by fire never stops changing.

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Middle Dutchman Falls

Middle Dutchman Falls - Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Middle Dutchman Falls - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Above Multnomah Falls on Trail #441, you will pass many whitewater areas and named falls such as this one, Middle Dutchman Falls.

Waterfall fans will get their fill if they continue up Trail #441 above Multnomah Falls. Some guides say there are 11 named waterfalls on this loop from Multnomah Falls to Wahkeena Falls. Some are right next to the trail, some you can hear but can barely see through the foliage. Some are hiding in dark nooks just to make photography difficult.

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Dutchman Tunnel

Dutchman's Tunnel - Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Dutchman Tunnel - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

This passageway was created in the basalt cliff by trail builders in 1915.

As Trail #441 continues upwards from the top of Multnomah Falls, you are hiking up slopes of columnar basalt. Dutchman Tunnel was created to give the trail a passage through the overhanging rock. The thick basalt flows came from vents in Eastern Oregon 10-15 million years ago. The Bretz/Missoula floods 13,000 to 15,000 years ago later stripped away soil and rock, scoured and steepened the sides of the Columbia River Gorge, exposing the columnar basalt. The creeks that used to gently enter the Columbia River were now left to plunge off of cliffs as their creek junctions had been torn away. That is why this area of the Gorge has so many waterfalls today.

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Weisendanger Falls

Weisendanger Falls - Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Weisendanger Falls - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Above Dutchman Tunnel on Trail #441 we come to 55-foot Weisendanger Falls.

Weisendanger Falls was lurking in the shadows for me on this June day, but its 55-foot drop produced plenty of noise. The name is relatively new, previously it was known as Upper Multnomah Falls, Double Falls (paired with the next falls, Ecola Falls) and Twanklaskie Falls.

The official name was given in 1997 to honor Albert Weisendanger, a Forest Service Ranger who served for many years at nearby Eagle Creek. He took an early retirement in 1948 to champion the "Keep Oregon Green" initiative to prevent wildfire. A wildfire destroyed the Perdition Stairs nearby in 1996.

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Rocky Trail Surface of Larch Mountain Trail

Rocky Trail - Larch Mountain Trail - Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Rocky Trail - Larch Mountain Trail - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

I told you to wear sturdy shoes, right?

If you have made it this far on Trail #441, you are now giving the soles of your footwear a very good test. The surface of the trail is hard, sharp hexagonal basalt rocks without any padding soil. Most athletic shoes do not have tough enough soles and you will feel the rocks through them. Trail shoes and hiking boots usually have tough soles or an extra "rock plate" in the sole to protect the foot from just such a trail surface.
Do You Really Need Trail Shoes?

On this trip in 2010, I noted that a large percentage of hikers were using trekking poles. This is a change from the past, showing that more and more people appreciate the extra stability and confidence they can get from using trekking poles.

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Ecola Falls

Ecola Falls - Columbia River Gorge Oregon
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Ecola Falls - Columbia River Gorge Oregon. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

You can see only the top of Ecola Falls without a sketchy scramble down its base.

Ecola Falls has also gone by other names, but finally the Forest Service settled on Ecola Falls (a Chinook word for whale). Previously it was known as Double Falls, paired with Weisendanger Falls just downstream. And people have called it Hidden Falls because you see only the top of the falls from Trail #441. You would have to scramble down off the trail to see the full drop.

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Wahkeena Trail Sign

Wahkeena trail Sign - Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Wahkeena Trail Sign - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Wahkeena Trail #420 leads from the Wahkeena Falls Trailhead to the Larch Mountain Trail #441.

Having hiked up from the Multnomah Falls Lodge parking area on Trail #441, we meet the Wahkeena Trail #420 at approximately two miles from the lodge. Here we are topping out at 1280 feet (having started at an altitude of 40 feet). It has been quite a climb, but it isn't all downhill from here, either. We will gain another 300 feet before we reach the Wahkeena Springs junction in 0.8 miles.

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Stream Along Wahkeena Trail

Stream - Wahkeena Trail - Columbia River Gorge Oregon
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Stream - Wahkeena Trail - Columbia River Gorge Oregon. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

This stream begs to be made into a poster.

The loop hike from Multnomah Falls to Wahkeena Falls is beloved by many because you are rarely out of sight or hearing of rushing streams. If you are looking for the perfect nature photo of a babbling brook, you will find them here around every corner. Some of these streams are seasonal, and we were walking during an especially wet late spring. Many of the falls were at roaring capacity and we saw more flowing streams than you might see in late September.

Although the water looks tempting, it is best not to drink unfiltered water from any stream in Oregon. They all are at risk of being contaminated by the Giardia parasite, which lives in the guts of local wildlife. It is best to carry enough water for the hike, at least 32 ounces per person.

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Blue Larkspur Wildflower

Blue Larkspur Wildflower - Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Blue Larkspur Wildflower - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Blue larkspurs line the Wahkeena Trail.

The Columbia River Gorge has many wildflowers. These blue larkspur were especially striking along the Wahkeena Trail. It is worthwhile to pack along a wildflower guide on any Gorge hike. I also saw the usual Indian Paintbrush and columbine.

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Wahkeena Trail

Wahkeena Trail - Columbia River Gorge Oregon
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Wahkeena Trail - Columbia River Gorge Oregon. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

The Wahkeena Trail connects Wahkeena Falls to the Larch Mountain Trail and Multnomah Falls.

After having climbed for over 1400 feet and spent the last mile on a very rocky surface, this stretch of the Wahkeena Trail was a blessing. This is also about the first place where the trail widens enough to safely go off "behind a bush" for a "natural break." Remember, there are no restrooms up here. The trees are Douglas fir.
How to Make Do When There are No Toilets

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Stream Crossing Wahkeena Trail

Stream Crossing Wahkeena Trail - Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Stream Crossing Wahkeena Trail - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

There are few stream crossings on the Multnomah-Wahkeena loop hike.

Before planning your hiking footwear, it is good to know whether you'll need to wade across any streams. I like to have a pair of sturdy waterproof trail shoes so I don't have to worry about unexpected trail washouts. I knew this tiny stream crossing was coming up on the route. It would only take a short jump to prevent getting wet. But I like the assurance that I can just tromp straight through it.

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Wahkeena Springs

Wahkeena Springs - Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Wahkeena Springs - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Wahkeena Springs are the source for Wahkeena Falls.

Reaching a trail junction, you may want to take a short detour to Wahkeena Springs. Here, the water gushes out of the hillside to form Wahkeena Creek. This springs was traditionally reputed to be safe to drink. I, however, prefer to pack along my own guaranteed-safe tap water. I have a healthy fear of Giardia, a parasite which is easy to pick up from untreated streams in Oregon. I like to carry a pack large enough to carry 40 oz. or more of water, or use a hydration pack. Top Picks for Water Carrying Packs Over 35 oz.

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Switchbacks on Wahkeena Trail

Switchbacks on Wahkeena Trail - Columbia River Gorge
Switchbacks on Wahkeena Trail - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

The trail descends on switchbacks.

As we begin our swift descent on the Wahkeena Trail after visiting Wahkeena Springs, we are in an area where you can look down and see people on multiple switchbacks below you.

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Fairy Falls

Fairy Falls - Columbia River Gorge Oregon
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Fairy Falls - Columbia River Gorge Oregon. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Fairy Falls on the Wahkeena Trail #420

Fairy Falls has a drop of about 20 feet. On this visit, the water volume was very high, almost obscuring the hexagonal columnar basalt fan that usually makes this such a picturesque falls. I think it is one of the most lovely falls in the Columbia River Gorge. It could be a goal in itself, hiking up Wahkeena Trail from the Wahkeena Falls Trailhead on the Historic Columbia River Highway. It is a 1.2 mile, 500 foot climb from the highway.

On this day, we are approaching it while descending the trail, having climbed up the Multnomah Falls/Larch Mountain Trail #441 and traversed to it on the Wahkeena Trail #420.

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Lemmon's Viewpoint on the Wahkeena Trail

Lemmon's Viewpoint - Wahkeena Trail - Columbia River Gorge Oregon
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Lemmon's Viewpoint - Wahkeena Trail - Columbia River Gorge Oregon. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Lemmon's Viewpoint affords a panoramic view of the Columbia River Gorge

Lemmon's Viewpoint is dedicated to a local firefighter, Keith Lemmons, who died fighting a fire in 1983. Here we get a panoramic view of the Columbia River and the Gorge. Also, the trail down from this point is now mostly paved as it descends swiftly on switchbacks. The pavement also makes this a good goal for a short day hike from the Wahkeena Trailhead on the Historic Columbia River Highway.

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Wahkeena Stream Descends Along the Wahkeena Trail

Wahkeena Stream - Wahkeena Trail - Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Wahkeena Stream - Wahkeena Trail - Columbia River Gorge. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

As the trail descends, we see many views of sparkling Wahkeena Stream.

Wahkeena Stream starts at Wahkeena Springs and meets up with other sources to eventually plunge over the cliffs as Wahkeena Falls.

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Upper Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena Falls
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Wahkeena Falls. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Walkers can hike up a paved trail to view Upper Wahkeena Falls.

This upper cataract of Wahkeena Falls can be reached via the mostly-paved trail from the Wahkeena Trailhead on the Historic Columbia River Highway. It is about a quarter-mile hike up the trail. But for us, we are nearing the end of the long 1400-foot descent and will be happy to stop going downhill.

Wahkeena Falls is a tiered falls with a total drop of 242 feet.

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Wahkeena Falls from Historic Columbia River Highway

Wahkeena Falls from Historic Columbia River Highway
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Wahkeena Falls from Historic Columbia River Highway. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

You can see the multi-tiered Wahkeena Falls from the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Wahkeena Falls has a multi-tiered drop of 242 feet. You can view it from the trailhead, located 13 miles east of Troutdale, Oregon on the Historic Columbia River Highway. It is a half mile west of the Multnomah Falls Lodge and trailhead. There is a picnic area here with flush toilets and a water fountain.

We reached the base of the falls the long way around, starting at Multnomah Falls and taking Trail 441 up, then Trail 420 over and down, for a 6 mile hike.

For those who want just a short hike, from here at the highway they can walk up the steep but mostly-paved switchbacks to the upper falls and Lemmon's Viewpoint. For a little more of a workout that goes onto the unpaved, rocky trails they can continue up to Fairy Falls.

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Wahkeena Falls Trail Sign

From the Historic Columbia River Highway, you can access the Wahkeena Falls Trail.

The Wahkeena Trailhead is 13 miles east of Troutdale and a half mile west of Multnomah Falls on the Historic Columbia River Highway. There is parking along the highway and down within the picnic area, and there are flush toilets and water in the picnic area.

This is a good alternate starting point for a Multnomah Falls-Wahkeena Falls loop hike.

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Multnomah Falls Return Trail from Wahkeena Falls

Multnomah Falls Return Trail from Wahkeena Falls
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Multnomah Falls Return Trail from Wahkeena Falls. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

For the loop hike, this trail connects the two falls at their bases.

Trail 442 parallels the Historic Columbia River Highway and connects the Wahkeena Trailhead and the Multnomah Falls Trailhead. It has a rocky surface with plenty of little ups and downs in its approximately half mile length. It will give you a bit of a test of your footwear.

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Dripping Cliff on Hike Between Multnomah Falls and Wahkeena Falls

Dripping Cliff on Hike Between Multnomah Falls and Wahkeena Falls
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Dripping Cliff on Hike Between Multnomah Falls and Wahkeena Falls. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

A rivulet turns a cliff into a wall of water.

We passed this weeping wall on Trail #442, which connects the Wahkeena and Multnomah Falls trailheads along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Seasonal streams turn stone faces into a wall dripping with water.

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Overhang on Trail from Wahkeena Falls to Multnomah Falls

Overhang on Trail from Wahkeena Falls to Multnomah Falls
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Overhang on Trail from Wahkeena Falls to Multnomah Falls. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

A massive basalt cliff makes way for the trail.

The Columbia River Gorge was carved through massive volcanic basalt flows. Here, the basalt overhangs the trail that connects Multnomah Falls Trailhead and Wahkeena Trailhead.

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